BINDWEED AND THE BIG TWIST – Marilyn Armstrong

BINDWEED AND THE BIG TWIST

Twisted vines on a tree in Manchaug

When the spring flowers have finished in June, the bindweed comes and takes over. I have spent every year of my gardening life fending off the bindweed (which I often call “strangle weed”). It lives, as far as I can tell, everywhere. It is the most intense, durable, determined plant on earth and I don’t know anyone who has successfully done it. Even when you think you’ve gotten it all, it will sneak back.

Lest we forget that human wires twist, too!

There’s also wild grape-vine, Jimsonweed, Virginia creeper and others I can’t name offhand. We’ve got them all.

Photo: Garry Armstrong – Here the battle between bindweed, an insanely enthusiastic forsythia , and wild grape-vine. The war never ends.

I don’t have the energy to fight it as much these days, so usually by the end of the summer, it has taken over. But all of them die when winter comes. Each year, it’s a new battle.

Antique tractor under Virginia Creeper? We’ve got that, too!

Virginia creeper at least turns to brilliant colors in fall

MIGHTY OAKS, MOUNTAINS, AND WHERE THE RIVERS RUN – Marilyn Armstrong

WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge: PLACE IN THE WORLD

I guess the height of building do it for some people, but for me, it’s the mountains and the oak trees. I live in an oak forest. The trees are tall. In winter, I worry about them falling from heavy snow or ice. In the summer, I worry about wind and then, finally, about the millions of leaves that are going to fall everywhere in my world.

Followed by the snow. Again.

Sunset – Jackman, Maine

I grew up in New York and for many years lived in Boston. None of these are “the place in the world.” For me, it’s always wild places. The height of our trees, the peaks of mountains. the valleys and rivers the places against which I measure my place on this earth.

PROLIFIC LIFE WITH WIRES: WORDPRESS WEEKLY PHOTO CHALLENGE – Marilyn Armstrong

Daily Post WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge: PROLIFIC

This has not been a prolific April. It’s just plain cold. It’s the 18th today and it is not supposed to be this cold. Wet? Maybe. It rains a lot in the spring in these parts. But we shouldn’t have needed another oil delivery this morning. We got one anyway, and probably for the first time in MANY years, we are actually behind in our payments for oil.

We pay all year round to avoid catastrophic single payments, but this year has not been a normal year.

Below, a few very different looks for “prolific.”

Profusion of mics and prolific wires

Prolific wires!

The canal is most prolifically covered with fallen leaves

Violets and dandelions cover the back yard in early spring. And, should we ever have one, I’m sure they will again.

Wild growth on picket fence

Wild profusion of lilies … last spring …

Goldenrod by Roaring Dam

Prolific woodpile

SLAUGHTER AT FURRY TOY PASS – MARILYN & GARRY ARMSTRONG

A cautionary tale for lovers of stuffed, furry toys
– and dawgz!


 Story by Garry Armstrong

Photography by Marilyn Armstrong


No one wants to talk about that dreadful, dark day in history. It was a day of senseless violence — as opposed to those many other more sensible violent periods. The massacre was perpetrated on an innocent, unsuspecting civilian population. The blemish on our national reverence for furry creatures with embedded squeakers can never be erased.

Squirrel was the first -- but hardly the last -- casualty.

Squirrel was the first — but hardly the last — casualty.

We treasure stories about children playing with teddy bears. We sing lullabies about cuddly, soft animals who live in the sense memories of our innocent kid years.

We should have seen it coming

We should have seen it coming

But, now there’s a darker, more murky chapter. It’s about our Scotties, Bonnie and Gibbs. A bloody chapter about the ambush at Furry Toys Pass!!

There’s no forgetting the innocence of the furry victims. Mr. Rabbit, the Hedge Hog brothers. Cousin Squirrel, and Yellow Beaky Kid. They lived their lives in quiet solitude, in a hidden valley that promised safety from marauding Scotties.

Bonnie has broken through! Security breached! Alarms sounding!

Bonnie has broken through! Security breached! Alarms sounding!

Security was heightened as new members joined the furry family.  But the Scotties had a mole who leaked information to them about what should have been The Safe House. Danger was near. No one fully appreciated the depth of the Wrath of the Scotties.

With fang and claw, Gibbs is first to attack!

With fang and claw, Gibbs is first to attack!

Deception was a key part to Bonnie and Gibbs game plan. They appeared quiet and serene, maybe nothing but biscuits on their mind. We were lulled into a false sense of security. The Furry Kids were left alone and vulnerable in the pass that led to a box canyon and the badlands.

it's a trap, a trick, a feint!

it’s a trap, a trick, a feint!

In a flash, Bonnie and Gibbs made their move!! We couldn’t believe what happened. Mr. Squirrel!! The Hedge Hogs, The Soggy Doggy and Yellow Beaky Kid — all snatched in cruel jaws before we could move to save them. We couldn’t keep up with Bonnie and Gibbs as they swooped in for their prey.

Back up troops were too far away. Bonnie and Gibbs had taken over Furry Toys Pass!!

We’re now waiting for a dispatch from Reuters to see if  Bonnie and Gibbs will consider a diplomatic trade-off for the lives of their furry hostages. The Scotties are adamant in their demands. They want a huge payoff. BIG biscuits, none of those wimpy, small brittle things that melt in their paws.

Garry tried negotiations, but the Scottish Terrorists remain obdurate!

Garry tried negotiations, but the Scottish Terrorists remain obdurate!

We’re not sure if we can save the furry kids from prison time. Too many treaties have been broken, too many treats consumed. Too many casualties with holes in their furry bodies, squeakers mashed to groans. Too much hours spent stitching and mending. Too many colors of thread needed — and too many needles.

The Old Man was right about those Scotties. They are bad.

Bad to the Bone!!


A final note: With the addition of Duke the Dogge, crazed killer from east of Uxbridge, all that remains are carcasses. Yesterday, new carcasses arrived as well as three new squeaky balls and a dozen low-bounce tennis balls. The bodies of the soon to be demolished are hanging on the door of the microwave. Their days are coming.

CROWDS ON BOSTON’S WHARF – GARRY ARMSTRONG

WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge:
A Face in the Crowd


This week’s challenge are faces “in the crowd.” These are the people you never meet. Crowds of tourists. The folks lined up to buy tickets at the game. Happy faces, worried faces.

Ready for the big kayak

Tourists

More tourists

This is a favorite subject. I’m less interested in landscape and more interested in the people, their dogs, and the stories I’ll never know. They give a human shape to Boston, a story different than just the sidewalks and walls.

Waiting in line

This is Boston’s Wharf. Tourists. Visiting us while we visit them.

NAMELESS FACES: ON THE STREETS IN BOSTON

WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge:
A Face in the Crowd


This week’s challenge are faces “in the crowd,” or what we used to call in the newspaper biz, nameless faces. There are two really great things about it. The first is that it’s a way to make a statement about “people” without talking about a specific “person.”

Boston, Night

Downtown, night

Strangers in a night

The other is that unidentifiable people don’t need to give you a release to use the pictures. I often intentionally shoot from slightly behind or sideways so faces are harder to identify.

Another stranger

Of course, if you know that person — really know them — you could probably pick them out anyway, but you would have to be that person or know him or her pretty well.

Downtown, late afternoon

Theater district, before the show

I also like this theme very well in black and white. It give a shape to, for example, city streets to have humans on it. You can gauge the size of the sidewalks and the height of building and trees and steps by the relative size of people walking by.

TOWN AND COUNTRY – PHOTOS BY GARRY & MARILYN ARMSTRONG

A LOOK AT THE BLACKSTONE VALLEY


Photo: Garry Armstrong

We don’t get lots of visitors here, probably because we aren’t a major city and we aren’t — any longer — a place for tourists. But oddly enough, this was a tourist area not all that long ago. At some point, it was too close to Boston and became exurban rather than “tourist.” That being said, it’s a beautiful valley and for those who are interested in what country living is like — with access to major cities too — this is a pretty nice place to be.

Welcome to the Blackstone River Valley.

October on the Canal – Photo: Garry Armstrong

In one of the stranger coincidences of history, the Constitution went into effect on March 4, 1789 while simultaneously, the American Industrial Revolution took shape on the banks of the Blackstone River.

On the Blackstone – November

Moses Brown had been fighting his own war. He was battling the Blackstone. With a 450 foot drop over a 46-mile course — an average drop of about 10 feet per mile — the Blackstone River is a powerhouse. Not a wide river, its sharp drop combined with its narrowness and meandering path give it much more energy than a river of this size would normally generate.

It invited development. The question was how.

The Mumford River — full foliage 2017

Through 1789, as the Constitution was gaining approval throughout the former British colonies, Brown wrangled the river, trying to build a cotton thread factory in Pawtucket, RI at the falls on the Blackstone River. He was sure he could harness the river to power his mill, but as the end of the 1789 approached, the score stood at Blackstone River – 1, Moses Brown – 0.

Photo: Marilyn Armstrong

Roaring Dam Photo: Garry Armstrong

America had her welcome mat out in those days. We needed more people and especially people with industrial skills. We weren’t picky. All immigrants were welcomed. This turned out to be a stroke of luck for Moses Brown.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

In December 1789, Samuel Slater — a new immigrant from England — began working for Brown. Slater had spent years working at an English textile mill. He recognized that Brown’s machinery was never going to work. Slater had fine engineering skills. In under a year, he’d redesigned and built a working mill on the Blackstone River.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

Manchaug Dam

By 1790, Slater’s Mill was up and running, the first successful water-powered cotton-spinning factory in the United States. Slater’s Mill proved you could make money in New England doing something other than whaling, fishing, or running rum and slaves. Entrepreneurs hopped on the idea like fleas on a dog. Mills were an immediate success. New England was inhospitable to agriculture, but fertile for factories.

Mills grew along the Blackstone from Worcester to Providence, then sprouted by the Merrimack in Lowell, and eventually, throughout New England. Wherever the rivers ran, mills and factories followed.

Meanwhile, mill owners on the Blackstone urgently sought a better way to move their goods.

The features that made the Blackstone a natural for generating power made it useless for shipping. The only other choice — horse-drawn wagons — was slow and expensive. The trip took 2 to 3 days over dirt roads from the northern part of the valley to Providence.

February heat wave Canal – Photo: Garry Armstrong

When the weather turned bad, the trip was impossible. All of which led to the building of the Blackstone Canal. Meant as a long-term solution, it actually turned out to be no more than a short-term temporary fix … but it was an impressive undertaking.

All those mills brought employment to the north. It created a real industrial base that would give the north the ability to fight the civil war … and win. It started with a river, continued with a canal, expanded with the railroads.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

Which is why the Blackstone Valley is a National Historic Corridor and known as the birthplace of the American Industrial Revolution … a revolution that brought the U.S. into the modern world and positioned us to become a major player on the international scene.

Now, it’s a peaceful, quiet valley. The mills are gone, the river remains, rolling down from the hills in Worcester through Rhode Island to the sea. Come visit. We are still beautiful.

VARIATIONS ON WIRES IN COOPERSTOWN

WordPress Weekly Photographic Challenge: Variations on a Theme of Wires in Cooperstown


While other people try to erase wires, I’m fascinated by them. The connectors between towns, between data. Voice and pictures and sound and ideas all race along those wires. When the wires arrived, it defines when this country become one country. It was the wires that did it and they still do it.

Dye-Cast wires in Cooperstown

Electric abstract wires in Cooperstown

SERENE – MORNING SUN ON A SHORT WINTRY DAY

WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge – SERENE


The sun was so bright this morning. Sometimes, the sun is the brightest in the winter. It is such a white sun again a dark blue sky. The trees are bare now, yet somehow, the forsythia bush still has green leaves.

It’s the only green-leafed growing plant out there. Everything else is brown or gray. It’s not terribly cold yet. I could take my pictures  in just my sweater — it wasn’t cold enough to need a coat.The cold will come. It always does, but not quite yet and I’m just fine with that. I love the peacefulness of the dark blue sky and the white sun with its long rays.

I participate in WordPress’ Weekly Photo Challenge 2017

 

A PEEK AT FALL THAT HAS ALREADY LEFT US — GARRY & MARILYN ARMSTRONG

We didn’t get more than a peek at the full autumn colors this year.


Home again.

It was late October by the time the leaves fully changed … and within hours, the rain began to fall. It was heavier rain, lighter rain … and finally, it ended in a crashing storm with high winds (I think they gave it a name — Phillip? I think?).

Gibbs and the great out-of-doors

Almost a million people in New England lost power and some still don’t have it making me feel even worse for those poor souls in Puerto Rico who must be wondering if they will ever rejoin the modern world.

The Mumford River — full foliage!

Photo: Garry Armstrong

There is nothing like the loss of basic power to make you realize what the 19th century was all about.

Except, of course, we were set up to function in that world back then … and now, we most assuredly (at least around here) are not.

Be that as it may, this is what we got of the fall. The only really brilliant shots were taken at the very end of the month and in the rain at that. A few were taken with my least auspicious camera, the tiny one I tuck in my back when I don’t think I’ll be taking pictures at all … what I call my “just in case” camera. At least that.

Both Garry and I took one set of shots on our own property during the rain and let us all applaud for Olympus OM-D weather-resistant cameras! It is nice knowing that a few drops of rain are not likely to ruin my cameras for good and all. I tried to label the pictures as his (Garry’s) and mine, but sometimes the signature is a big small and hard to see.

Since today is the first of November, it is a very good day for a photo roundup of our Autumn shots. There will be some more, of course. November is the month of the bronze and golden oak trees.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

They always run a month behind in the glorious color sweepstakes of autumn. Sometime during this month, when the light is just right, the sun will drift through all the oak trees and turn the rivers to gold. Meanwhile, enjoy what we were able to get of this year’s colors.

I participate in WordPress’ Weekly Photo Challenge 2017

SO MANY PEDESTRIANS, SO LITTLE TIME.

PHOTO CHALLENGE: THE PEDESTRIAN

Garry had a bumper sticker on his old red Mustang convertible that said: “So many pedestrians, so little time.”

Night, midtown Boston

Cruel? Only if you weren’t trying to drive cross-town in Boston where pedestrians pay no attention to signs, crosswalks, or even oncoming trucks and cars. If they feel like crossing the street, they step into the road and ramble casually across.

If you get too close, they pound on your car because traffic regulations don’t have anything to do with them.

On the street

I do not know if all cities are as bad as Boston, but I wouldn’t be surprised to discover they are. In New York, it took them years to figure out ways to control both cars and walkers without fatalities.

Out here, in the country, people are surprisingly polite about people crossing the road. I suppose because there aren’t so many of us helps. The roads aren’t as packed with traffic. It’s safe to slow down.

Nonetheless, traffic will stop and wait for you to cross. After which, they wave to you. Using all five fingers.

I participate in WordPress’ Weekly Photo Challenge 2017

VIEWS FROM THE KITCHEN

A KITCHEN WINDOW


I like shooting through windows and I have a lot of pictures to prove it. It’s the only place from which I can see birds in the yard in the winter, or the frozen trees in the woods during a storm.

It’s also the place from which I can take pictures without having to put my boots on. Not a small thing when the temps are well below zero (Fahrenheit) and the snow is up to my hips.

I like the light from the east side of the house. Kitchen, dining room, our bedroom and the deck all face east.

Another focus

Utensils by the window

The picture window in the living room faces west.

Only two small windows face north and south, but the way we are situated, all the action is east and west.

When I finished taking these pictures, the sun had made its way around to the other side of the house.

I participate in WordPress’ Weekly Photo Challenge 2017